Where's Mariucci?

Former Packers assistant coach at least deserves an interview

Earlier this week Ted Thompson made a decision that some of us surmised he might make. He fired head coach Mike Sherman. The reason for Sherman's dismissal is debatable. The bottom line is that Thompson decided to move on to another leader that will hopefully get the Green Bay Packers the NFL's ultimate prize. That would be the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Thompson's choice for the next head coach will have many ramifications. One of them sticks out like a sore thumb. That analogy is very apropos as I am obviously talking about Brett Favre. Thompson's decision will help make Favre's future more crystal clear. So, just who will be the Packers next head coach?

Thompson has many candidates that he has interviewed or plans on interviewing. That list includes Sean Payton (assistant head coach of the Cowboys), Maurice Carthon (offensive coordinator of the Browns), Ron Rivera (defensive coordinator of the Bears), Mike McCarthy (offensive coordinator of the 49ers), Wade Phillips (defensive coordinator of the Chargers), Russ Grimm (offensive line coach of the Steelers), Tim Lewis (defensive coordinator of the Giants) and Jim Bates (the current defensive coordinator of the Packers). Thompson also planned on interviewing Brad Childress (former offensive coordinator of the Eagles) before Childress accepted the head coaching job for the Minnesota Vikings. Speaking of Childress, the word is that he plans on adding current Packers QB coach Darrell Bevell to his staff. Thompson has many choices. One other option for Thompson could be University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, if he should decide to pursue a job in the NFL. But there is one obvious omission. That would be Steve Mariucci.

Why wouldn't Thompson at least bring in Mariucci for an interview? They have a history of having worked together for the Packers in the mid-90's. Mariucci runs basically the same west coast offense that the Packers currently run. Mariucci has head coaching experience with both the 49ers and Lions. The experience with the Lions means that Mariucci has a good read on the current state of the NFC North. And then there's the Favre factor. It has been reported that Favre was making a case for Mooch several weeks ago behind the scenes in the event Sherman was fired. That event has happened. Add to that, Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook said in a recent interview that the hiring of Mariucci would greatly enhance the chances of Favre returning to Green Bay. So why no interview?

Thompson needs to make his decision based on what's right for the Green Bay Packers, not just Brett Favre. But the two don't have to be exclusive. Thompson has some very good candidates on his current list. If I had to pick the two front-runners, I would say they are Payton and Bates. Payton is a former quarterback that has a very innovative offensive mind. He learned the West Coast offense under the tutelage of Jon Gruden. He also has worked under Bill Parcells in Dallas and resurrected the career of QB Drew Bledsoe. He did the same thing a few years back with Kerry Collins, when he was with the Giants. The history of success with quarterbacks is there. That is a huge component in Thompson's decision making.

Bates also would be an appealing choice. He did a superb job this year as the Packers defensive coordinator. Under Bates' leadership, the Packers had the seventh best total defense in the entire NFL, including the top ranked pass defense. Compare that to the sieve the was the Packers defense in 2004. Bates brings a fiery attitude and he also has a good relationship with Favre. The other candidates have fine resumes, but the ones with defensive backgrounds are not any better than Bates. If I had to choose between Payton and Bates, I would probably choose Bates because there would be less of a transition needed. But if Payton is the choice, I wouldn't lose any sleep over that decision. Perhaps the two could work together, but that would seem unlikely. But still I ask, why not at least interview Mariucci?

Thompson has to be aware of Favre's fondness for Mooch. An interview with Mariucci would at the very least send a signal of respect towards Favre as he contemplates his future in Mississippi. There are those who say that Mariucci has been a failure as a head coach. I would respectfully disagree. He did a fine job in San Francisco before the salary cap and terrible ownership caused the team to lose it's elite franchise status. Then there was the Detroit Lions experience. Certainly Mariucci didn't have the success there that he would have wanted. But most experts agree that the real cause of the Lions ineptness the last several years have been because of the "leadership" of Matt Millen. Millen was a great player, but he has been a terrible NFL executive. Millen is most likely going to hire his fourth head coach in just a few years this off-season. That's all you need to know about that franchise.

Thompson is obviously doing his due diligence as he interviews several worthy candidates. I only ask, why not interview one MORE worthy candidate? I'm not saying that Thompson has to hire Mooch, but I think it would send the right message to Favre and besides, Mooch does have several factors working in his favor as stated earlier. By this time next week the Green Bay Packers will most likely have a new head coach. Right now it looks like it will be either Payton or Bates. But it would be nice to know that Thompson explored all possibilities before he makes his final decision. C'mon Ted. Pick up the phone and call someone that grew up a Packer fan as a kid growing up in Northern Michigan. Someone that knows this organization very well and the team's greatest player extremely well. Someone that deserves at least an opportunity to talk to you. That someone is Steve Mariucci.

Bob Fox is a freelance writer from Tampa, Fla. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.

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